If you wish to offer Sicilian style pizza in your pizzeria, all it takes is a few hardware pieces, and plenty of patience
or over 3,000 years the island of Sicily has experienced a steady stream of naval powers, raids, invasions and occupations. Because the sea has cut off Sicily from her neighbors, the island has been able to preserve the ancient Roman culinary traditions that was not possible on the mainland. Native Sicilian and World Pizza Champion Luciano Carciotto says, “Sicily, since Roman times, was already considered the personal mill of ancient Rome.” The Romans referred to Sicily as ‘The blessing of Ceres, a paradise where grain, olives and grape vines flourished.’ Eventually, the land and wheat led to some great flatbread and pizza traditions.
Master Pizzaiolo Matteo Ruvolo from Catania, Italy, who now lives in Miami, has been bringing interest back in the ancient grains of Sicily. “Grains like Maiorca, Tumminia, Perciassacchi and Scavuzzo have been grown for centuries in arid and marginal soils as well as the mountainous areas of Sicily and are making a comeback.” Mr. Ruvolo is an advocate of Sicilian products like Pecorino Siciliano, Bronte Pistachio, Modica Chocolate, Trapani salt, Prickly Pear and Cherries from Etna and the Pachino tomato from Ragusa.
Introducing Sicilian Style in your Menu Mix
If you wish to offer Sicilian style pizza in your pizzeria, all it takes is a few hardware pieces, and plenty of patience. Like most focaccias and thick crusted pizzas, time and temperature will decide your perfect Sicilian pizza rise. Here are some quick foundations.
Sicilian Pizza dough is mixed and formed to your chosen specifications of yeast, pre-ferment, hydration and protein level. Please remember that the goal of most Italian pizza is to make the dough as digestible as possible. This entails long holding times for direct method doughs or the use of pre-ferments such as biga, poolish and Pasta Fermentata, (Pate Fermentee in French or old dough.)
Sicilian Pans: There are some great pans on the market. Choose one that is large enough to accommodate your dough without buckling under higher heat. Many companies are now selling pans that are specifically made for Sicilian pizzas. Do not balk at what may seem a high price for pans, they will be with you forever. Be sure to always season your pans to prevent sticking.
Flour: Much is said about using Neapolitan “00” flour or just bread flour or a combination of both. Some pizza makers love the tight cake-like crumb of a traditional Sicilian fine semolina pizza dough while others prefer higher protein in the form of Manitoba wheat. The higher gluten of a 12- to 14-percent flour is more forgiving for high-volume operations and produces an open crumb but left unchecked (or in amateur hands) it may blow up in the center of the Sicilian pan like Mt. Etna. Then after the par-bake, the cheese will flow…off the pan.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Over the years, I have seen many chefs and pizza makers choose the most expensive cheeses and toppings but then buy oils that are rancid and oxidized with no provenance as to where they were made or how old they are. I recommend blanketing your Sicilian in fresh Extra Virgin and not any other oil that may be old and oxidated. New data* shows that extra-virgin is more chemically stable than mixed oils even when baked past its smoke point of 350 F-410 F. With fresh oils in oxygen-free containers, your crust will embody the nutty, non-greasy flavor of fresh olive juice and exhibit a beautiful golden crunch.
Cheese: Never skimp on cheese for Sicilian pizza. Your customers will notice if you have crappy cheese and/or are not putting enough on your pizza. Your customers may like the taste of a mozzarella/provolone mix to counter the strong flavors of pepperoni and sausage or just a great pull from a mozzarella loaf like in Brooklyn-style Sicilian pizza.
Sauce: The best sauces are made with tomatoes that go from the vine to the can in under an hour. These may be more expensive, but you cannot mix your way to a great sauce using crummy second grade tomatoes or purees. Because the best Sicilian pizzas have the sauce on top of the cheese, this will show that you care about flavor over everything.
*U.S. News and World Reports. Why you should stop worrying about olive oils smoke points, Sept 27, 2019
Direct Method Sicilian Pepperoni Pizza
In my pizzeria, we make both indirect method dough (using pre-ferments and old dough) and direct method doughs for all our focaccia and Sicilian pizzas. We also use a multitude of grains that accentuate different tastes and textures to the thick breading. This recipe uses just the basic ingredients at 72-percent hydration to form a great pizza crust and incorporates time, temperature and patience. You may want to keep it retarded under refrigeration for another day for a more dynamic crust and added digestibility.
Get the Direct Method Sicilian Pepperoni Pizza recipe, including the dough formula and step-by-step instructions.
John Gutekanst owns Avalanche Pizza in Athens, Ohio.